Report from the south-western front!

Last weekend I took part in the South Lakeland chess congress at Grange-over-sands. There were five sections and I was entered in the Minor 1 section (135-121). There were 24 competitors and mine was the thirteenth highest grading, so I was pretty much bang in the middle of the field. I took a bye on the Friday night and on Saturday morning had white against Ahmed Abbas (123) from Manchester 3Cs. I played Ahmed in the same tournament two years ago and lost a close game. This time we agreed a draw after 52 moves and a really good, hard and evenly matched game. The afternoon brought black against Ian Blencowe (129) from Gloucester. Ian played really slowly – even slower than me! – which meant that we were one of the last games to finish, even though our game only went to 40 moves. I had a clear positional advantage but was starting to suffer from chess fatigue after over seven hours’ chess that day, and gradually I allowed my advantage to slip away and was obliged to force the draw by perpetual check. Still, 50% so far was OK. Sunday brought white against Nigel Kerby (122) from Bishop Stortford. He turned up 15 minutes late and proceeded to play whirlwind chess, so that by the end of the game he had used an hour (for 15 minutes of which he had been absent) whilst I had used two hours! He outplayed me in the opening, I had the better of the middle game, then he came again in the endgame to checkmate me as my clock fell on something like move 75. It turned out that two years ago his grade had been 160, but he had a high-powered and very demanding job, was working all hours and his grade was in free fall. I certainly felt I had given a good account of myself against a stronger player. And so to the final round, with a win necessary to achieve my 50% target. I had black against Douglas Bromley (123) from Spondon, Derbyshire. This was my poorest game, with a couple of miscalculations each costing me a pawn, which proved decisive. I resigned on move 60 with mate imminent. By now I had played about 14 hours’ chess in two days and my head felt ready to explode, so I made my way home with my tail between my legs! One point out of four was not exactly a glorious result, yet I felt I had learned quite a lot, and I had certainly had four tough games, which is what a congress is all about.

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